Last spring, McDonald’s announced it would ditch frozen beef in favor of fresh beef patties in all its Quarter Pounders, excluding restaurants in Hawaii and Alaska. Wendy’s had been lording its fresh beef over McDonald’s for a while, but it took the Golden Arches years to make the switch. Why? The company had to upgrade parts of its logistics and supply chain to accommodate the refrigerated meat—to the tune of about $60 million. We thought the move to fresh beef resulted in a noticeably juicier burger, and apparently plenty of other customers did, too.
CNN Business reports McDonald’s saw a 30% increase in sales of its Quarter Pounders in the past year, with especially strong sales in May 2018 tied to the company’s marketing push for the new patties. In a first-quarter earnings call cited by CNN, McDonald’s CFO Kevin Ozan noted the fresh beef burgers are also now available in the 2 for $5 combo, a deal that he says has been performing well for the chain.
Marion Gross, chief supply chain officer for North America, told CNN Business just how big an undertaking it was to switch from frozen to fresh meat, calling it McDonald’s most significant supply-chain move since it introduced all-day breakfast in 2015. (Which it’s since walked back slightly.) Trucks required temperature-monitoring equipment; suppliers needed new packaging technology and more refrigeration; and even some individual stores had to pay for new refrigeration and storage. Employees also had to be trained in updated food-safety protocols.
It’s useful to keep that massive supply chain in mind when the internet collectively calls for some change or addition to McDonald’s menu. Recently, pressure has mounted for the chain to add a meatless burger option, like Burger King’s Impossible Whopper or Del Taco’s Beyond Meat menu items. McDonald’s so far hasn’t rolled out such an option, and if the switch to fresh beef patties is any indication, it might be a years-long process to get there.